Japanese second-hand cars in Zimbabwe are contaminated with nuclear radiation causing cancer


HARARE – Imports of second-hand vehicles more than 10 years old are to be banned to contain the import bill and promote the domestic motor industry, while all vehicles imported from Japan now require prior clearance to ensure they are not contaminated by radioactivity from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The proposal for the ban on older second-hand cars was part of a raft of measures to rebuild Zimbabwe’s assembly industry presented by Finance and Economic Development Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube when he unveiled the 2021 National Budget on Thursday, while the need for radiation clearance was part of a statutory instrument gazetted by President Mnangagwa.

Prof Ncube noted that Zimbabweans had spent about US$1,3 billion on the imports of buses, light commercial and passenger motor vehicles from 2015 to September 2020.

“This is despite the existence of capacity by the local motor industry to assemble the above-mentioned range of motor vehicles,” he said.

“Furthermore, due to lack of effective standards and regulation, unroadworthy vehicles, which, in some instances fail to meet environmental and safety standards, find their way onto the market. In line with the National Development Strategy 1, which underscores value addition, I propose to remove second-hand motor vehicles aged 10 years and above, from the date of manufacture at the time of importation, from the Open General Import Licence.”

Prof Ncube said commercial vehicles such as tractors, haulage trucks, earth-moving equipment and other specialised vehicles used in mining and construction would be exempt from this requirement.

In 2011, Government banned the import of vehicles more than five years old, although the ban was later reversed following an outcry from the public.

In order to stop imports of vehicles contaminated with radioactive debris, President Mnangagwa yesterday gazetted a Statutory Instrument requiring those importing vehicles from countries that have experienced level two and above radiation on the International Nuclear Radiological Event Scale to obtain clearance for radiation contamination.

S1 281 of 2020 is cited as the Radiation Protection (Safety and Security of Radiation Sources) (Amendment) Regulations, 2020 (No. 5).

Japan is the only country that has experienced a radiation event above level two on the INES, notes the instrument, when in 2011 it experienced a disaster at its Fukushima Nuclear Plant following an earthquake and the accident was rated 7 on the INES.

While most cars imported from Japan will not be contaminated, the regulations will prevent vehicles that were near the nuclear power plant being salvaged and

exported to Zimbabwe.

According to the SI, any person who does not comply with the regulations or who makes a false statement or declaration or falsifies any documents concerning the country of origin of a vehicle shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding level 5 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both such fine and such imprisonment. – Herald